Eagles exposed to chronic lead poisoning at a concerning rate

Eagles are being exposed to lead poisoning at an alarming rate, according to a study released earlier this year.

Jeff Cooper is a Wildlife Biologist with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources; he’s been coordinating the eagle project for the state over the last 20 years.

During that time, he’s looked into lead exposure in bald and golden eagles, and a few other raptor species.

A recent study he helped work on, published in February in the journal Science, began exploring the issue nationwide.

“The most surprising part was I didn’t think the extent of chronic lead exposure was as great as it is,” he said.

He said roughly half the bald and golden eagle population across the country is exposed after eating the remains left behind during hunting season. The affects on the raptors are serious and can sometimes be deadly.

“It can have a surprise effect on their behavior and reaction time,” says Cooper.

The focus is now on educating people about how to minimize lead exposure by using copper ammunition. Another option is to clean up or bury remains.

Fortunately, Cooper said there’s no threat to their population, but that doesn’t mean change isn’t necessary.

“Utilization of the non-lead ammunition will greatly and certainly minimize lead toxicosis,” Cooper added.

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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